ACTS 24


5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

When Paul visited the synagogues


"he reasoned with them out of Moses and the Prophets, expounding and proving by citations the things concerning the Christ."


The result was division wherever he went. Was Paul, or the truth he set forth, the efficient cause of the schisms?...

Yet Paul was denounced by the "G.M.'s" of his day as a scatterer of divisions or schisms, a turner of the world upside down, a pestilent fellow, and so forth...

These great truths and the testimonies of the apostles and prophets pertaining to them, are followed by debates and oppositions. But I am no more to be blamed for these than Paul. When God's testimony is presented to the blind who say they see, trouble in their camp is inevitable; for the thinking of the flesh is enmity against God and his word. The word of life is light, even as God is light.

When, therefore, it shines into the darkness, a struggle ensues between the two elements. If the light prevail the darkness is extinguished, and there is peace; but if the darkness maintain its position, as is generally the case, the light is excluded with all through whom it shines and death remains.

Thus, a division or schism is effected. The Schismatics are the fleshly-thinking opponents of the testimony of God, and not he or they who show what that testimony is, and endeavour to prove that it means precisely what it says.

Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Sept 1853


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16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

A GOOD, AND AN EVIL, CONSCIENCE


The reader, by contemplating Adam and Eve in innocency, and afterwards in guilt, will perceive in the facts of their case, the nature of a good conscience, and of an evil one. When they rejoiced in "the answer of a good conscience," they were destitute of shame and fear. They could stand naked in God's presence unabashed; and, instead of trembling at His voice, they rejoiced to hear it as the harbinger of good things. It was then pure and undefiled, being devoid of all conscience of sin.

They were then of the truth, living in obedience to it as expressed in the law; and therefore their hearts were assured before Him. No doubts and fears oppressed them then. But mark the change that afterwards came over them. When they lost their good conscience, terror seized upon them at the voice of God, and shame possessed their souls; and they sought to get out of His sight, and to remove as far from Him as possible. Now, what was the cause of this? There is but one answer that can be given, and that is -- SIN.

Sin, then, takes away "the answer of a good conscience towards God," and converts it into an evil conscience; which may be certainly known to exist, when the subject of it is ashamed of the truth, and harassed by "doubts and fears." They are ashamed of the truth, who, being enlightened, feel themselves condemned; or, being ignorant, apprehend it. Such, on account of unbelief, or of "a dead faith," may well be ashamed and afraid; for to be ashamed of God's truth is to be ashamed of His wisdom and power.

People of this description, proscribe all conversation about the truth as unfashionable, and vulgar; or as calculated to disturb the peace of the family circle: others again, make a great outcry against controversy as dangerous to religion; as though God's truth could be planted in the hearts of men, already prepossessed by God's enemy, without controversy: others subjected to the timidity of sin, reduce every thing to opinion, and inculcate "charity;" not that they are more liberal and kind than other people; but that they fear lest their own nakedness may be discovered, and "men see their shame:" while another class of bashful professors cry out, "disturb not that which is quiet," which is a capital maxim for a rotten cause, especially where its subversion would break up all "vested interests," and pecuniary emoluments.

So it is; while "the righteous are bold as a lion, the wicked flee when no man pursueth." Sinners, however "pious" they may be reputed to be, are invariably cowards; they are ashamed of a bold stand for their own profession; and afraid of an independent and impartial examination of the law and testimony of God.

Understanding then, that sin, or the transgression of God's law, evinced by doubts, fears, and shamefacedness, is the morbid principle of an evil conscience, what is the obvious indication to be fulfilled in its removal? The answer is, blot out the sin, and the conscience of the patient will be cured.

The morbid phenomena will disappear, and "the answer of a good conscience toward God " (1 Peter 3:21) remain. From the nature of things, it is obvious, that the sinner cannot cure himself; though superstition has taught him to attempt it by fastings, and penances, and all "the voluntary humility and vain deceit," inculcated by "the blind." Adam and Eve vainly imagined they could cover their own sin, and efface it from divine scrutiny; but the very clumsy device they contrived betrayed the defilement of their consciences.

Their posterity have not learned wisdom by the failure of their endeavor; but, to this day, they are as industriously engaged in inventing cloaks for their evil consciences, as were their first parents, when stitching fig-leaves together to cover their shame. So true is it that, though God made man upright, he hath sought out many inventions (Eccles. 7:29). But, after all the patching, and altering, and scouring, they are but like "the filthy garments" taken from the high priest, Joshua (Zech. 3:3-4); to which all the iniquity laid upon him, adhered with the inveteracy of a leprous plague.

Men have not yet learned the lesson, that all they are called upon by God to do, is to believe His word and obey His laws.

He requires nothing more at their hands than this.

If they neither believe nor do; or, believe, but do not obey, they are evil doers, and at enmity with Him. He asks men for actions, not words; for He will judge them "according to their works" in the light of His law; and not according to their suppositious feelings, and traditions.

The reason why He will not permit men to prescribe for their own moral evils, is, because He is the Physician, they the lepers; He their Sovereign, they the rebels against His law. It is His prerogative, and His alone, to dictate the terms of reconciliation.

Man has offended God.

It becomes him, therefore, to surrender unconditionally; and, with the humility and teachableness of a child, to receive with open heart, and grateful feelings, what-ever in the wisdom, and justice, and benevolence of God, He may condescend to prescribe. Until they do this, they may preach in His name (Matt. 7:21-23); make broad their phylacteries (Matt. 23:5, 6, 7); sound trumpets in the synagogues and in the streets (Matt. 6:1-4); make long prayers in public (verse 5-7, 23:14); disfigure their countenances with grimace that they may appear to fast (Matt. 6:16-18); build churches; compass sea and land to make proselytes (Matt. 23:15); found hospitals; and fill the world with their benevolences -- all is reducible to mere fig-leaf invention as a substitute for "the righteousness of God."

"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Rom. 4:7); but this blessedness came not upon Adam, nor upon any of his posterity, by garments of their own device.

The Lord's covering for sin is "a change of raiment," even "white raiment," which He counsels men to buy, '"that they may be clothed, and that the shame of their nakedness do not appear" (Rev. 3:18). He alone can furnish it. His price is that men should believe, and put it on.

Elpis Israel Ch 3.